Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Islands by Anne Rivers Siddons is an account of lifelong friends who call themselves the "Scrubs." The core members grew up together in Charleston and, as adults, they share, with their spouses, a Carolina beach house where they spend vacations and holidays together (this theme sort of dragged on without much happening for a great deal of the book). In the course of the story many of the people pass on, but I think I was actually the most upset when Henry's dog, Gladys, dies. As I read on, my impression was that this was just of a saga about a group of friends, but in the last few chapters a mystery unfolds that was completely unexpected. I nearly gave up reading this book a few times, but was glad I held out for the twist at the end.

I actually listened to this book on CD, which made it easier to endure. If I had read the pages, I'm quite sure I never would have finished it. The narrator's voice was sweet and had a great Southern accent, so even when I tuned out of the story, her voice was soothing. At only five CDs, it's a good choice for a road trip with your mom.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Turkey and Magazines

This holiday weekend I found myself doing something I rarely afford myself the luxury of doing: nothing. Actually, lying around and catching up on magazines. I had a huge pile of all my favorites; People, Real Simple, Blueprint, Everyday Food and Body & Soul. I think the reason my periodicals pile up is because I am truly more of a book person. I prefer the commitment of a novel over a weekly gossip rag. But from time to time I have to stay informed and learn new recipes, decorating ideas and what's hot in fashion. From RS I learned that olive oil takes the Christmas tree sap off of your skin. Body & Soul had a great article on compact fluorescent light bulbs (I've been wanting to switch for a while). I was in tears as I read the People article on Good Morning America's co-host, Robin Roberts, and her battle with breast cancer. I have about a million cool websites to check out thanks to Blueprint. And who wouldn't want to try vegetable enchiladas that take less than an hour to prepare (thanks, Everyday Food!)?? But mainly it was so wonderful to relax and spend some quality time by myself.

I also thought about what I am thankful for. My family is small, but close, and every holiday season I thank God that I don't have to drive all over the city eating more than one dinner. We get to stay put in one house all day! I know there are not many people who can say that.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Water For Elephants

I read Water For Elephants over the summer, but it was such a great book that I still feel the need to talk about it. When I heard the premise of the story, it didn't really sound like something that would interest me. A guy who runs off and joins the circus? But I was still intrigued because it is such an unusual story.

Jacob tells his tale in flashbacks. He is now 90 (or 93, he can't remember), living in a nursing home, and filling his days with the happy and horrific memories of his time in the circus when he was in his early twenties. At the beginning of the Depression, Jacob is in veteranary school getting very close to graduation when his parents are trageically killed. While he is lost in grief and wandering about wondering what to do with his life, he comes across the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. By chance and confusion, he joins this circus. The story that follows is exciting and tragic all at once.

The portions of the story that took place in the present, with Jacob as an old man, were somewhat difficult for me to read. His wife had died, and his five children seem to have their own lives with not much time to fit their father into their schedules. His mind is as sharp as it was in his twenties, but his body is beginning to fail him. Sara Gruen gives Jacob a voice that instills compassion and tenderness on the reader.

The most beloved character, however unexpected, was Rosie the Elephant. Jacob becomes so fond of her, and, as the reader, I quickly came to love this misunderstood elephant. When she is first purchased for the circus, everyone thought Rosie was just stupid or stubborn. They soon come to find out that she only understands Polish! Jacob struggles with her trainer to keep her safe, and the more violent the trainer became, the more I hated his character. It is finally in the climax of Jacob's circus career that his life takes a strange twist and heads in a completely different direction.

That twist wasn't the only unexpected one. The 90 (or 93) year old Jacob has a surprise of his own. Read the book and you too will love the ending.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Some have said that Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns is better than The Kite Runner; that may be true. The story, like The Kite Runner, follows a family in Afghanistan through war, turmoil and uprising and how these people find a way to survive (or not) through it. This book, however, touches on the September 11 attacks and how the Afghan people were affected when the Taliban took over. Hosseini has a superb writing style that convinces the reader to truly hate the lead male character – Rasheed, and to feel nothing but compassion for the lead female characters – Mariam and Laila. The story keeps the reader on an emotional roller coaster, but most of the time sadness and despair rule over any sort of happiness. But the ending is at least as comforting as possible in staying with the reality of the war-torn country.

For me, the book read a little slow, mainly because of the author's use of Farsi words and phrases. But once I memorized the meanings of most of these words I was able to read a bit faster. It was also an abbreviated history lesson about the formation of the Taliban and the acts that led up to the attacks on America. While this book won't make it into my top ten, I would still highly recommend it to anyone.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


It's not a book, but a song. With freaking amazing lyrics. Since my birthday a few weeks ago, I have to admit that I have been quite contemplative and pretty melancholy. I attribute this mainly to the time of year: I loathe the Fall. Everyone I know says I shouldn't live here but instead some place that is warm and sunny all the time. Easier said than done. The other reason I'm in a funk is because I'm still single. This normally doesn't bother me much at all. I am generally a very happy person with great friends and family. But tie in this crappy season with my yearly sense of loneliness and I could pretty much cry when the wind shifts.

Since I was old enough to like boys (a long, long time ago) I have always kept my ear out for the perfect wedding song. Of course the picks change as music styles change; I think I've had a million over the years. Which brings me to this fantastic song by Joshua Radin, featuring Schuyler Fisk. I've already listened to Paperweight about 5 times this morning and get chills every time I hear the sexy, yet comforting lyrics. Being the music geek that I am, I had to add them to this post for your enjoyment.

Been up all night staring at you
wondering what's on your mind
i've been this way with so many before
but this feels like the first time
you want the sunrise to go back to bed
i want to make you laugh
mess up my bed with me
kick off the covers i'm waiting
every word you say i think
i should write down
don't want to forget come daylight
happy to lay here
just happy to be here
i'm happy to know you
play me a song
your newest one
please leave your taste on my tongue
paperweight on my back
cover me like a blanket
mess up my bed with me
kick off the covers i'm waiting
every word you say i think
i should write down
don't want to forget come daylight
and no need to worry
that's wastin time
and no need to wonder
what's been on my mind
it's you
it's you
it's you
every word you say i think
i should write down
don't want to forget come daylight
and i give up
i let you win
you win cause i'm not counting
you made it back
to sleep again
wonder what you're dreaming

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You Suck

Literally. OK, who wouldn't want to read a book with such a funny title? I checked out this book on CD from my library and gave it a shot. You Suck is about vampires...actually a guy who sleeps with a girl, who, unbeknown to him, is already a vampire, which now makes him one. I think the story is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but it wasn't very funny to me. I only made it through one CD – barely.

And because I always have this displaced sense of loyalty when it comes to books (which I am trying very hard to break, I swear), I had to check out the author's web site. Christopher Moore appears to be a pretty successful author. He's written at least 10 books, and it seems like they are all on a humorous level. I like funny books! But I guess I just don't get the vampire thing. And I can't necessarily say I was intrigued enough to try another of his titles. Oh well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I read this book back in March while on vacation to Palm Desert, CA and it instantly jumped into my top 10 list. In Kim Edwards' first novel, set in 1964, a doctor is forced to deliver his own twins during a snow storm. The boy, born first, is perfectly healthy. The second birth, a girl, has Down syndrome. The doctor makes an instantaneous decision to give the child to a home and tell his wife that her daughter was stillborn. This decision ends up haunting him for the rest of his life. The author's writing is simply poetic and I was drawn in from the first sentence. I love writing that takes me out of the ordinary every day; writing that is so descriptive that I have an abundantly clear picture in my mind. But I recently spoke with a friend of mine who could barely get through the book. I was shocked! I had to hear her opinion to see where we differ. In the meantime, I asked another friend to write out her thoughts because, like me, she also thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven't read the book yet, don't read on until you do ... there are a few spoilers in the next few paragraphs. It was fun for me to get different sides of the story, but I'm still sticking with my original opinion: The Memory Keeper's Daughter is an outstanding novel.

Beth said:
I think mainly I didn’t like Norah at all. Too weak for me and too secretive. You lost the baby, get over it and move on. Talk to your girlfriends about it. Really, it took her over 20 years. I have never lost a child and certainly believe that it is a loss to be grieved, but I believe in moving on eventually. And what’s wrong with telling your husband how you really feel? And same with David. He had to live with his decision but totally closed himself off. I’m too much of a “sharer” I guess to keep all those emotions bottled up and am frustrated by those who do. And poor Paul was the one who suffered for it. I will admit that I was shocked when David died. But why didn’t he tell Norah about his life in West Virginia, about his connection with Rosemary, where he had been for three days…. And did she really believe that he was involved with Rosemary? Really, she was already 4 months pregnant. I did like Caroline, Al and of course Phoebe and was not upset that Caroline did what she did. I guess the poetic nature of the writing was too much for me also. I got tired of her imagery of the “silence growing to the edges of the room” and so many others. I think I could have imagined things just as well with fewer descriptions and adjectives.
OK, tell me your side. I haven’t talked to anyone else who has read it so I am very interested in why you liked it.

So I said:
I think the main thing to keep in mind is the era in which the book takes place. In the 1960s, depression wasn’t recognized as a “disease”...no one associated depression with a medical issue, so they never spoke about it; assuming the problem was theirs alone. And a woman of the 60s didn’t air her dirty laundry with girlfriends or especially not her husband. Men needed the women to be the housewife, mother and caregiver and not complain about anything. I completely see your point, but I think that is what I enjoyed so much about the book – that the characters were flawed. I like books that don’t necessarily have happy endings. And as far as David, I thought he was completely a believable character. People make the wrong decisions all the time and have to live with the consequences. I think he lived with guilt and regret until the day he died. And if his flaws weren’t part of the book, there wouldn’t have been much of a book to write! And of course I love what Caroline did and how she raised Phoebe. To me, that was the light at the end of the tunnel out of so much sadness.

The poetic writing is something that always intrigues me in a book. I read so much, that I like when a writing style really sets itself apart from other books.

And Laura said:
I agree that norah was flawed...but they all were. They were all so complex. I think that’s what made it so interesting.

David did a despicable thing. But to me, his character was so human, I couldn’t help but still root for him. And it was totally believable to me that one secret can feed upon itself like it did. Even though norah didn’t know it ...she obviously felt it... that’s what kept her from moving forward. Her air was poisoned. And I think some of the choices the characters made in the book might have been guided by the time (and the locations) the book was set in. had they been born in 1964...instead of giving birth to paul...maybe they wouldn’t have been as trapped by what society dictated.

And as for the writing, I got so wrapped up in how interesting the plot was and the relationships between the characters (or lack of)...that if the prose got too flowery...i missed it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What a GREAT birthday!

So it's not even noon and I've already had a great day. I am very spoiled by my friends at work...they are incredibly good to me.

Probably the best present I received today was a signed, first edition (!) hardcover copy of Run by Ann Patchett. Hooray! This is from the same awesome friend who got me Wicked: The Grimmerie last year. And I was completely speechless then! Let me say that I am completely obsessed with Wicked the Musical...I know every single word to every song, have seen the show twice and already have tickets to see it again in February. The only unfortunate thing though is that I absolutely hated the book. (I think that should be the subject of another post because I am talking about my birthday right now). But the Grimmerie is about the coolest book I've seen. It's the whole story of how the show got started and includes photos of the cast, lyrics, etc.

And just to top it off, this year, WOW, I have a signed book. Thanks, Joanna. I can't wait to read it. What a treasure.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Road...continues

There aren't many books that keep me thinking long after I've finished it. But it looks like The Road is one of them. Because the subject matter was so far away from anything I personally have ever read, I am craving to learn more about it. I continued to ask myself while I was reading why the characters wouldn't just kill themselves out of sheer desperation. It was also so stressful and gut-wrenching that I was tempted to put it down unfinished (I know someone that had to do just that). On the other hand, it was so beautifully written that I didn't want to miss a word. And although I was told there was no happy ending, I had to read it for myself to really believe it.

Anyway, a friend sent me this article which helped me put a little more insight into the book.
The Road Through Hell, Paved With Desperation helped me see a little more clearly. Enjoy.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Recommendations by Ann

One thing is for sure, and that is that Ann Patchett quickly became one of my favorite authors. I've even gone as far as to read books by her best friend, the late Lucy Grealy.

And just today my friend showed me a book that Ann wrote that we must have missed : Taft. She gets it first since she purchased it, but I get it next.

So needless to say that I would take any recommendation by this author as gospel. I found this in the Borders newsletter that I receive. Not so sure about the Courtney Love one, but the rest are now officially on my list!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Secrets of a Fire King

Let me start out by saying that Kim Edwards has the potential to be one of my favorite authors. The Memory Keeper's Daughter is in my top ten, and if I assigned actual numbers to all those books, it would be very high on that list. That being said, I hate short stories. Hate may be a strong word, but I guess what I am feeling is that I can't get invested in short stories. I wish that each one of these stories would evolve into a novel of their own. Each one is so unusual, set in exotic locations and moments in time, but again, at around 20 pages per story, it's not enough for me to really care. I found myself skimming most of the stories toward the end waiting for one to spark a bigger interest. But I think I am just ready to move on to a full-length novel.

Kim Edwards is truly a poetic writer though, so if I had to pick a favorite from this collection, it would Spring, Mountain, Sea. The story is about a man who brings home a war bride and the struggles that she has to endure in America, such as not speaking the language, the climate, and deep loneliness. I connected the most with this story and really wish it was longer. In the meantime, I will eagerly await another novel by Kim.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I grabbed this book on CD from the library in preparation for a road trip. It is Augusten Burroughs's first novel, written in seven days, and it's hysterical! On his website he says, "It's absolutely the most shallow, petty, mean-spirited little book you'll read." I think he's right.

The book centers around a group of people employed by a fictional home shopping network. They all have serious issues. But the best part is that I laughed at their misfortunes! My favorite story was about a woman, who wasn't even a central character, who began drinking when her conjoined twins wouldn't get along. The story is told in such a dry way that you would miss out on how funny it really is if you weren't paying attention. Plus, with an audio book, the narrator makes all the difference. Robin Miles did a great job of holding my interest and making me laugh.

This book is nothing like his other books, but it's a fun read. Also, his brother, John Robison, wrote a book that releases September 25. Look Me in the Eye is an account of his struggle with Asperger's syndrome. I'm adding it to my list.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

life on the refrigerator door

I picked this one up and read it in the time it took to have my oil changed. 220 pages of notes on the fridge between a mother and her daughter. I thought it was going to be all fluff, until suddenly it snuck up on me.

Alice Kuipers writes a cutesy, simple first novel that turns out to be quite poignant in the end. Give it a read...you only need 20 minutes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Road

One word: bleak. Have you ever read a book that gave you a stomach ache while you were reading it? The Road by Cormac McCarthy was probably the most difficult subject matter I have ever read. That being said, a friend of mine also described it "like reading one long poem." In fact, The Road was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

In a post-apocalyptic world, a man and his son struggle for survival and hope to find a better life on an undefined coast. It is freezing cold and they constantly scrounge for their next meal. I found myself wondering why they wouldn't just kill themselves? The author leaves the reader with absolutely no hope that better things are to come. But the love between them (their names are never mentioned) will make you weep. By the end of the book I was actually bawling out loud. I can't think of another book that affected me this way, although I can't put it in my top ten. It was just too emotionally draining.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bad Dog, Marley!

On top of what I normally read, I also get to read lots of children's books. Lucky for me, I have a two-year old niece who has adopted her Auntie Amy's passion for reading. And this week, my friend who works at a bookstore, was able to get me an autographed copy of Bad Dog, Marley! by John Grogan. It's even personalized with Emily's name!

I have heard that this is Grogan's children's version of Marley & Me, and that the stories in the book are all true based on the author's own yellow Lab. Now I am eager to make the comparison. Either way, the story is sweet and funny and the illustrations are adorable. Richard Cowdry was able to capture the expressions from a puppy to an adult dog with endearing accuracy.

This book will be a great gift for any child, especially Emily.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Where to begin?

It's not like today is the first day I begin reading. With all the great books I've read in the past, it seems sad to let them go unmentioned. There are items on my top ten list that will change, I'm sure; it was very hard to commit to that list. And with this year 75% over, I'm not even sure I can remember all that I have read in 2007.

There are also authors that I follow and always grab their newest release. Ann Patchett, Maeve Binchy and Augusten Burroughs are ones I keep up with. And why won't Wally Lamb write another novel?? I think about his two books, She's Come Undone and I Know This Much is True, all the time. I beg him to write more.

It should already be evident that I am a fiction reader. Books take me out of the noise and stress of daily life and into a place that relaxes me. I have to put a book in my hands every night before I shut the light off, whether it's a single page that I read or several chapters.